In my last entry in this occasional history, I made the claim that the Yardbirds were the most important band of the 60s in term of their lasting influence through the 70s. Why? The main reason is that three of the four most influential guitarists (and possibly musicians) that came out of rock and roll passed through this band: Jimmy Page went on to form Led Zeppelin; Clapton formed Cream, Blind Faith, and Derek & the Dominoes before embarking on a prolific solo career; and Jeff Beck’s technique has been respected and imitated throughout rock music despite a less prolific/critically lauded output following his collaborations with Rod Stewart. Beck’s 70s power trio Beck, Bogart, and Appice possibly matched Cream for sheer brilliance.

Note: Most influential != greatest

The fourth would be Jimi Hendrix. We’ll get to him in a future post.

whiteboybluesI also discussed in the last post something of the love these bands had for the old blues artists. What I didn’t know is that many of them played with the blues greats when they toured England. I recently read Ian MacLagan’s autobiography. MacLagan was a keyboardist in a number of bands (including The Small Faces and The Faces (the latter of which featured Rod Stewart on vocals) with whom he’s most closely associated, the Rolling Stones, The New Barbarians, and in the last decade or so, Billy Bragg -Alas he passed away a couple of months ago. MacLagen got his start with an act called The Muleskinners. He discusses first a missed opportunity to back Howlin’ Wolf (the agent told them a date that was a week early and they had to hustle to get enough petrol to get back to London from Sheffield).

“We got another chance to play with The Wolf later though, when Marquee Artists brought him, Sonny Boy Williamson and Little Walter over from the States. As a rule, the Yardbirds backed Sonny Boy, and if they weren’t available, the Authentics got the job. This pecking order for backing blues legends ended when it eventually reached The Muleskinners. We didn’t mind. We were more than honoured to get the chance to meet and play with such fabulous players. Let’s face it, we had a lot to learn and who better to learn it from than the greats?” (All the Rage, Kindle edition, Location 793.) )

Clapton’s path is interesting: He ditched the Yardbirds claiming they were abandoning their blues roots. Fair enough. His tenure in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers provides much evidence of his dedication to the form. The weird thing is, he took this side trip into psychedelia with Cream. Cream didn’t last long as a band (less than two years, IIRC), but they produced four or five classic albums. Cream’s bassist, Jack Bruce passed last year, though most thought drummer Ginger Baker would be the first to go. As with almost all the songs on Fresh Cream, Bruce supplied lead vocals. Blind Faith only released one, but it’s also six tracks of classics.

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